Dead Man Walking (DS Heckenburg #4)
by Paul Finch
Consigned to a remote valley in the Lake District, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is getting used to a quieter life – a far cry from the bloodbath of his former division, the Serial Crimes Unit. But wherever Heck goes, trouble is never far behind.
Unknown to Heck, ‘The Stranger’ has returned. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, this prolific serial killer has found a new home. As a dense, frozen mist descends on the Lakes, The Stranger returns to his old ways, starting with two young women lost high on the hills. Only one girl is ever found – barely alive – but able to confirm Heck’s worst fears.
As The Stranger lays siege to the remote community, Heck helplessly watches as the killer plays his cruel game, letting off his trademark call before viciously picking off his victims.
And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck has no choice but to play ball…"
This is the fourth outing for the main character, DS Mark “Heck” Heckenberg. Despite not having read any of the previous ones, it didn't matter as the author was adept at developing the characters and giving them real depth and bringing them to life and I don’t feel I lost out at all not having read any of the others.
The story is set in a small hamlet within the fells of the Lake District in Cumbria. I live close to the area in which it is set - actually only 6 miles from Great Langdale, 5 miles from Chapel Stile and 3 miles from Skelwith Bridge - and I have to say that the author definitely captures the essence of the area perfectly; the beauty but also the solitude. The lack of a mobile signal is very accurate and one which many won’t believe is true - it most definitely is and you don’t even have to be in the middle of a fell!
The main story begins when two young ladies get lost on the fell - inappropriately dressed and with no real idea of what they are doing … again, very accurate as this happens almost on a weekly basis up here and definitely keeps the Mountain Rescue Teams busy! The story becomes more sinister and menacing as it goes on and the way the author used the fog to create more atmosphere, tension and a sense of bleakness was exceptional. Although the description of the murders was graphic and stomach churning, it only added to the overall feeling of the book - fast-paced, claustrophobic, exciting and, yes I know it’s corny, but difficult to put down.
It is obvious to me that the author did his research on the area well however, there were a few errors that I found (and can remember) but that’s only because I’m a local and they certainly didn’t detract at all from the overall story. The first being that the ambulance crew wouldn’t have taken Tara to Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal, they would have taken her to Barrow as Westmorland General doesn’t have an A&E and haven’t done emergency operations for several years. The second I’m not too sure about but I don’t think Windermere have a CID, they would have to come from Kendal but I may be wrong on that. The third is the B5284 road (known locally as the Crook Road) heads towards Bowness and not Windermere but now I’m being picky ;)
Overall, I really enjoyed this book made all the better by being set where I live but also that one of the main characters bears my name (Hazel) and she is brave and feisty too!
I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a meaty, edge-of-the-seat thriller with blood and guts thrown in which is obviously well researched (mostly) and full of tension and disquiet.
Disclaimer: Thank you to www.netgalley.com and the publisher - HarperCollins UK, Avon - for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.